Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crevettes a la Creole

Shrimp creole!

     Shrimp creole is a Louisiana favorite!  Shrimp creole can be found on nearly every menu in New Orleans.  This is a great recipe for Mardi Gras!
     I worked with a few good Cajun and New Orleans chefs early in my cooking career.  I learned a lot about Louisiana cuisine, while working with those chefs.  Louisiana chef Justin Wilson had a great cooking show about twenty years ago.  I watched Justin's cooking show one day and I really liked the way that Justin Wilson made creole sauce.  Justin Wilson prepared the creole sauce like it was made fresh to order.  He used all fresh ingredients and he emphasized that a creole sauce should be a very zesty fresh tasting sauce.
     Creole sauce can be made ahead of time, but it is best if it is reheated to order and not kept warm in a pot or steam table.  Many second rate restaurants offer creole sauce that has been kept hot in a steam table all day.  Creole sauce that has been kept warm for a long period of time will become flat, acidic and not fresh tasting.
     Fresh ingredients are the key to making a great creole sauce.  If you live in Mississippi delta country, then Creole Tomatoes are the choice tomato for shrimp creole.  Outside of delta country, red ripe Roma tomatoes or plum tomatoes are good to make creole sauce with.
     The amount of cayenne pepper that is added to a creole sauce is a personal choice.  Creole sauce should be spicy, but it should not be spicy enough to remove the chrome from a bumper!

     Creole Sauce Recipe:
     You can make creole sauce with chicken stock or shrimp stock, depending on what the sauce will be served with.  For shrimp creole, shrimp stock is used.  This recipe make enough for 2 medium size portions or 1 large portion.
     Heat a large sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil or blended olive oil.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of small diced onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of small diced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Add 1 finely chopped seeded green serrano pepper.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Saute the vegetables, till they start to become tender.
     Add 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 chopped fresh ripe Roma tomatoes.
     Saute till the tomatoes start to become soft.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 minced large fresh basil leaves.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 3/4 tablespoon of paprika.
     Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper.  (Make the sauce as spicy as your personal taste will allow!)
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the sauce.
     Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 2 cups of shrimp stock.
     Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the sauce to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce for 5 minutes.
     Add 2 thin sliced green onions.
     Add 4 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Continue to simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium tomato sauce consistency.  Stir the sauce occasionally.  The sauce should not look watery.
     Set the creole sauce aside.

     Crevettes a la Creole Recipe:
     Cook a portion of plain white long grain rice ahead of time.
     Peel and devein 1/2 pound of medium size shrimp.
     Remove the tails from the shrimp.
     Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add the peeled shrimp.
     Saute till the shrimp become a little bit more than halfway cooked.
     Add enough creole sauce to smother the shrimp.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.

     Remove the bay leaf from the sauce.
     Form a ring of the plain white rice on a plate.
     Spoon and mound the shrimp creole in the center of the rice ring.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     Hooooo Dawgy!  This is shrimp creole the way that shrimp creole is supposed to be!  The flavors are fresh and delicious.  The complex seasoning mixture has a true Louisiana flavor.  The trinity of onion, peppers and celery is what gives creole sauce its signature flavor.  The shrimp are tender and plump, because they are cooked to order with the sauce!  The crevettes a la creole in the pictures had enough cayenne pepper to give a nice comfortable after burn!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 2012 Sysco Food Show at Cashman Center, Las Vegas!

     This article was edited on 9-1-2014.  A slide show was added!

The Sysco Food Show!

     Sysco is one of the largest food purveyors and distributers in America.  Sysco does food shows in nearly every major city from coast to coast.  Las Vegas is the convention capitol of the world and this city is the number one food destination in the world, so the Las Vegas Sysco Food Show at Cashman Center was a major culinary event!

     Because the Sysco marketing and demo staff usually have no Las Vegas health cards for food handling, Sysco subcontracted the food handling positions to local companies.  One of the companies was a catering service that employs chef school students for events.  I signed on with the catering company as a certified food handler.  Several other students did the same and we all made a little bit of extra cash.

     At a food show like the Sysco event, all that is required of food handlers is some very basic cooking and food safety knowledge.  A clean presentable uniform, a smiling face and the ability to "meet and greet" is all that is needed.
     Helping the Sysco product marketers to get potential customers interested in the new food items was easy for me to do, because Sysco had some nice new products.  I have been working in the restaurant industry for a long time and I have knack for getting people interested in food.  While cooking the demo food, using honest descriptive phrases that describe the quality of the product seemed to work best.  When an interested customer started inquiring asking about serious matters concerning prices, sales potential or availability, I directed the customer to the Sysco representative that I was working with.  Working as a demo food preparer at a Sysco convention is a fun "piece of cake job!"

     The photos above only show a small portion of the food products that were on display ay the Sysco Food Show.  Cashman Center is a very large convention facility that is easy to navigate, but I could not wander too far away from my demo cooking duties while on break.  I chose to just take pictures of the food that was nearby in the convention hall.

     There was an Angus Beef display area at the far end of the convention hall that I would have liked to have seen while at the Sysco Food Show.  The delicatessen meat section was nearby.  Those are two items that are fun to taste and sample.
     Sampling is the key to a good food show.  Every item at the Sysco food show was free to taste.  "See food, eat food" is an old expression.  "Let them get interested in new food products and let them buy food" is a better food convention expression!
     It is impossible to sample every food item at a grand scale food product convention.  Most shop by sight alone.  When they see a food item that presents quality or a pre-prepared food product that could potentially create customer interest, then the sampling begins.  The people that tasted the food products were impressed.  Many purchased the food products for their businesses on the spot and delivery was arranged.  Since modern communications technology was used to log every sale, the entire process only took a few minutes and the food products actually could be delivered the same day or whatever date the customer chose.

     I must admit that many of the potential customers grazed the food at the Sysco Food Show just like the event was an endless buffet!  That is okay, because later, those same customers remember the items that they liked and they inquire about those items through their own establishment's Sysco sales reps.  Sysco sales reps that cover a region or route are very easy to work with.  Busy chefs often lag behind, when trying to keep up with the latest food purveyor products.

     The regional Sysco sales reps often present new food items that can effectively create solutions, especially when efficiency is the operational goal.  For example, a restaurant that only has access to an unskilled workforce or a restaurant that a high customer flow ratio and the kitchen facility is too small, are candidates for purchasing pre-prepared food products that require no prep work or raw food inventory.  When kitchen space or food quality control is a factor, the pre-preared food items that Sysco offers are a viable solution.

     A food show is an enterprising venture, both for the marketers and potential customers.  Food shows are fun to attend and attendance is usually by invitation or registration.  Because the group of us students were hired to safely handle the food, we got to attend the Sysco Food Show for free.  We actually got paid to attend this fun event!
     As a chef, manager or restaurateur, attending food show conventions is a necessity.  Shaking hands and promoting business is part of the deal, while attending a food show like the Sysco Convention.  Good publicity never hurts in the restaurant business!  Seeking new food products is a great way to keep a restaurant's customers happy and it good way to stay ahead of the competition.
     If presented with the opportunity to attend a regional Sysco Food Show, then by all means do so.  Bringing a few promising restaurant employees along will certainly help to expand their knowledge.  Food expo events are educational and there are always plenty of new items to check out.  Yum!